“Unfinished Business” by Margery Bayne

“There he is. Go on now. Punch him.” Remmie hovered over Anne’s shoulder as she had since last Tuesday. The perils of being a medium. Ghosts hovered, haunted, howled, and in this particular case, annoyed. 

Anne had done her research. Having seen the dead since puberty and been able to competently handle them since twenty-one, she was no slouch at this line of work. By all accounts Remmie shouldn’t be a ghost at all. Anne had checked out her obit, her old facebook page still active with loved one’s sad-emoji messages, and other social media presences. Remmie hadn’t been murdered, hadn’t died suddenly, and although young in the halls of unliving, she shouldn’t have unfinished business. 

She had died of cancer. A long, drawn out battle with cancer. Which, yes, Anne wasn’t heartless; it was sad. But people who died of long, drawn out battles with cancer had time to get their affairs in order, to say what they needed to say, and have whatever needed to be said back to them in return.

Honestly, other than passing away in your sleep at a content one hundred years old, there wasn’t a better way to pass over.

Anne’s proof: In all her years of communicating with the dead, she had never once had a ghost of someone who had died of a long, drawn out battle with cancer before. 

Remmie must’ve been emotionally incompetent in life. Anne didn’t know why she had to be the one to suffer for it. 

“I’m not going to punch some random man outside a Starbucks in broad daylight.” 

“Then why’d you come all the way here?” 

“Because you wouldn’t leave me to my afternoon of binge-watching Frasier reruns in peace. I’m here so you’ll shut up.” 

“I’ll shut up for good if you punch him. Pass on. You know, die for real.” 

Anne adjusted her sunglasses against her nose. It wasn’t an overly bright day, but if she was going to scope out a stranger she didn’t need her staring to be obvious. An old trick for an occupational hazard. 

“What did he do?” 

“Does it matter?” Remmie’s voice spoke directly into Anne’s ear. It was unnecessary. Whispering in public might’ve been needed between mediums and ghosts of the past as to not inspire suspicions against the medium’s sanity. In the age of bluetooth one half of a conversation was normal. 

“I might not be so opposed to punching him if I had the appropriate motivation.” 

“He deserves it,” Remmie said. “Is that appropriate motivation?” 

“I’m going to need more details.” 

“Unfortunately, I can’t give them to you.”

Anne crossed her arms. “I’ve had some of your lot try that on me before. There’s no magic keeping your lips sealed. You’re just lying.”

“Your lot?” 

Anne couldn’t very well say ‘ghosts’ in her one half public conversation. There was only so far that line could be pushed. But she also would not be accused of discrimination at this junction when was the one taking on all this emotional labor from the goodness of heart and to the determent of her binge-watching plans. 

“Just…” Something in Remmie’s voice cracked a little bit. Or it could’ve been her temporal presence in this plane of existence wavering. Either case, it caused Anne’s stiffened shoulders too drop. “Can you walk over closer to him? You’ll see what you need to see then.” 

Anne, empathic bitch that she was, jaywalked herself across the street. The man, who sat at one of those two-seater iron-wrought table-and-chair sets out on the sidewalk didn’t seem overtly douche-y, although appearances could be deceiving. He sipped at a Venti-size whatever, and wasn’t even looking at his phone, the weirdo. 

Suspicious, Anne supposed, if she made a mental stretch as intense as a straddle split. 

“Closer,” Remmie urged. 

At this point, Anne had no other grounds to refuse. She was here and she had already paid for parking. 

Pretending that she was moseying her way into the Starbucks, Anne got closer. When she was just passing by the man, Remmie pushed. 

There’s a lot to be said about ghosts and intangibility and how they interact with the world of the living. What needs to be known here was that Anne, being in touch with the dead, made her more able to touch and be touched by said subsect of the undead population. 

Anne tripped right into the man’s lap, rattling the tiny table, and sending the Venti-whatever to the cement. 

The man caught her. “Woah there. Are you alright? Did you trip?”

Anne was confused. Betrayed. Incised. She looked up. The man had the deepest brown eyes and she was a sucker for that. 

“I— I— I—” She was also inane, apparently. She needed to finish this sentence. “I spilled your coffee.”

“It’s alright.” He helped right her. Guided her to the other chair in the set. “Are you alright?”

“I owe you a coffee.”

“I think I should get you a coffee. Can’t have you so tired your tripping into strangers in the street.” 

Anne laughed. It came out as a giggle. She was still inane, obviously, but that smile…

“Seriously,” the man said. “What’s your order? I’ll run inside.”  

Anne rattled it off even though she couldn’t feel her face at her moment. 

The man disappeared inside. 

When Anne blinked, Remmie was still floating there. 

“He promised me he would date again, but he’s shit at keeping promises apparently. So, I had to take matters into my own cold, undead hands. Bye.” Remmie faded out of existence even as Anne gaped, desperate to get in some final nasty words of revenge. None came. 

The man returned too quick for there to have been a line. When he handed her the drink, their fingers brushed, a zap of static electricity stinging between them. 

Oh my, Anne realized, this was a new experience. She had been just set up by a ghost. 

Margery Bayne is a librarian by day and a writer by night. She enjoys the literary and speculative, and is a published short story author and an aspiring novelist. In 2012, she graduated from Susquehanna University with a BA in Creative Writing and is currently pursuing a Masters of Library Science. In her time not spent reading or writing, she enjoys origami, running, and being an aunt. She is a native of the greater Baltimore area of Maryland where she still currently resides.